Aim of the exercise: To draw individual pieces of fruit and vegetables in any chosen medium, paying attention to shapes and planes that make up the outline. Sketch possible views for a composition. Use a viewfinder to crop some shapes in different positions. Then compose a still life of 3 or more pieces of fruit or vegetables considering negative space and aiming to fill as much of the picture plane as possible. Use coloured pencil, markers, inks or pastels with a hatching technique.
What I experienced and what I learnt from that:
Completed 07/09/12. This exercise took me the best part of a week to complete which was a lot longer than I would have liked but I have learnt a lot while battling with it. Using hatching in colour proved to be a challenge and once again I found myself struggling with composition and particularly with trying to fill the picture plane as much as possible.
I started by drawing individual items in several different types of pencil. I drew a pear and a plum in Derwent Artist pencils and again found that they seemed to give very weak colours and they needed layer upon layer to achieve any depth to the colour, and by the time I had managed to build up colour all signs of hatching had disappeared giving a very smooth if rather weak effect. Colour was richer with the coloursoft pencils but once again by the time I had built up the layers of colours any hatching marks had been absorbed. These pencils showed the grain of the paper more than the Derwent artist pencils, A4 sketch book p.78 (please see figure 1). The inktense and creatacolor monolith pencils both gave quite rich colour but again few hatching marks were left by the time the layers were built up, A4 sketch book p.80 (please see figure 2). All of these small drawings, for their size, took a long time to draw as it took ages to build the colour layers up with hatching. As all signs of the original hatching marks had disappeared by the time the layers were built up I am assuming that I have tried to put down too much of a literal representation. I tried to accurately capture each item, which on the whole I think that I have done, what I haven’t achieved though, is any real feeling of life to them.
They are all rather boring, a fairly accurate representation rather than an interpretation, in some ways I may as well have drawn plastic fruit because the drawings have about that much life to them. I have still got a long way to go with this aspect. Another aspect that I will need to work at is deepening my shadow colours, the fruits look rounded but do not have enough contrast between the shadow and light side.
Next I drew some individual items using stabilo point 68 and 88 fibre tipped pens, A4 sketch book p.79 (please see figure 3). I found these a real challenge as I find hatching in colour with pens even more difficult than hatching in monochrome, every mark is visible and irreversible once down. These were, however, good fun to do but I am still tending to draw too many lines, with not enough variety of spacing. I coped better this time with not getting too worried when the early stages of hatching looked pretty awful, (well at least mine does anyway).
I struggled with trying to work out what would be the best colour for the shadow colours and with getting enough contrast between the light and shadow sides to successfully show form and roundness and will need to look into this.
Next came trying to compose the still life and at this point I really hit problems. I find it very difficult to fill the picture frame, or, more accurately, do a decent composition that fills the picture frame. I tried lots of different variations, cropped some by viewing through a view finder, and drew thumbnails of ones that looked like they might have potential, A4 sketch book p.81 (please see figure 4). Some of these I then tried sketching at A4 size but found that what looked a possible in thumbnail size did not neccessarily transfer to full A4 size well. It would appear that I am often not drawing my thumbnail in the correct proportions to the paper I want the drawing to go on. I had also experienced this in the previous exercise and thought that I had corrected it for this exercise but obviously not so I will need to look at ways of combating this.
I tried developing one of the thumbnail ideas in a couple of larger thumbnails, A4 sketch book p.82 (please see figure 5) and being reasonably happy with this design I was ready to start the final drawing.
I decided to use stabilo fine liners for the drawing as I found these were quite a challenge to use with a hatching technique. I enjoyed doing the drawing but did find it difficult and it took several hours to complete, A4 sketch book p. 83 (please see figure 6).
I found throughout the drawing that it was very easy to over work an item and I did this with most of them, something to watch in future. I tried to link all items by using the same yellows as an undercoat. I worked on making the cast shadows darker in this drawing but I am not sure that I have not gone too dark. I have ended up with quite a lot of negative space and the composition is very static and I will need to continue to work at improving my compositional skills. I like the brightness of the colours. I wasn’t sure how to tackle the table top and background and decided to use horizontal and vertical lines respectively. I think that the background has worked better than the table top but for future drawings I will need to consider the space around the objects more and become more adventurous in how I tackle it.
This has been a useful exercise but has highlighted just how difficult I am finding the composing side of things and how badly that is knocking my confidence. Trying to compose it took me longer than any other aspect of the exercise and caused more angst as well. I had learnt from the previous exercise to just tackle the thumbnails head on rather than procrastinate about them and I was pleased to be able to do that in this exercise, but actually producing an interesting and effective composition is proving to be beyond me at the moment. Because I was very aware that for the next exercise that I was going to need to come up with 3 different compositions, yet couldn’t even come up with one for this exercise, this side of things really did become a huge stumbling block and I found my confidence at rock bottom. This exercise really did turn into a make or break section of the course for me and became as much of a battle to try and combat some of my demons as coming up with a composition. I took a break to try and get some perspective back and decided that demons or not I wanted to continue and the only way to get better at composition was to keep trying it. One thing that I had not realised until I happened to look back through my sketch books is how often I only sketch a single element, composition really doesn’t come up much in them at all, so that is something that I will need to try and change. I also do not crop any elements in my sketch books so again I will need to try and practise this. I’ve managed to find another book on composition which hopefully will be an additional help and I need to start when looking at paintings and drawings of other artists try and understand the principles of composition behind them. I find it quite easy to get in somewhat of a vicious cycle regarding my lack of confidence with drawing (and anything else for that matter) so keeping in mind Paul Taggert’s words that I quoted in the last exercise is going to be important for me. Another thing that I need to try and keep in mind is to just concentrate on one exercise at a time, and not to be worrying about the next one before I’ve even completed this one.
While looking at The Encyclopedia of Coloured Pencil Techniques by Judy Martin I came across some drawings by Carl Melegari in which he had used hatching in a way I hadn’t seen before. In ‘Sewing Materials’ on p.115 he uses a vigorously woven form of hatching while in ‘Table Still Life’ p.119 he uses a scribbled technique. Both are very effective and striking.
I tried doing a couple of small drawings in a similar style using the stabilo point 68 and 88 fibre tips, small square sketch book pages 41 and 43 (please see figures 7 and 8). I found it very difficult to get the woven effect and though they were fun to try they have ended up as just variable length parallel lines so don’t look anything like they were meant to. It will be something to come back to and try again with.